Every downhill should be the reward for an uphill. In other words: First comes the work, then the downhill. Some people enjoy the fast and dynamic ride downhill, others prefer jibbing. You can see mountain bikers having fun on this stretch all over the place. Sunday riders in the lowlands, pedal heroes in the mountains or fearless participants in spectacular MTB races. They all love one thing – outdoor sports.

Obstacles: All kinds of obstacles on a mountain bike course.
Jibbing: Downhill ride taking advantage of all the obstacles. The focus is on fun, not time.
Downhill: Descent on a natural track, where only speed counts.

The pain disappears, but the pride remains.

Wherever that may be. Whether arid deserts, humid forests or high peaks: When the muscles cry, the sweat flows. Mile by mile. Foot by foot. The finish line ever closer. Threshold experience or day trip. Being free in the outdoors is an overwhelming feeling. At the finish line, the pain fades and euphoria over what has been achieved takes over. A feeling of happiness. Emotional. Made it. Proud. Which trail will be next?

The brakes are only cool when going uphill
Mountain bikers on the ascent to the Thorong La (17,769 ft), the highest point on the Annapurna Circuit, Nepal. This trekking route is one of the most famous trails in the world. The riders are at an altitude of 11,482 ft. The peaks of the Annapurna Range in the background are over 22,965 ft high.

Trails are loose grounds (forest floor, sand, gravel) containing obstacles such as roots, stones, steps or hollows. Singletrack trails are narrow paths only wide enough for one mountain biker. As these are often hiking trails as well, one must always be on the lookout for hikers or walkers.

The Piz Palü Glacier in the Bernina Range of the Swiss Alps in the  Canton of the Grisons

No mercy for the calves.

We present ten of the toughest mountain bike races in the world. Incredible experiences, extremely demanding for the body and mind. For many participants, just conquering the course is a victory in itself.

Every race is a fight against yourself. The riders, who also call themselves adrenaline junkies, push themselves to the limit under extremely tough conditions – whether in the scorching heat or in the freezing cold, right by the sea or thousands of meters up, in the snow or in the desert. The adventurers are rewarded with breathtaking landscapes, incredible, unique experiences, and at the end, a feeling of happiness to have overcome the physical and mental challenges of this trail. Burning calves, aching muscles, fatigue and numb buttocks are all part of the experience at the most extreme stage races and mountain bike marathons.

This is no walk in the park. These are some of the toughest and most spectacular MTB trails that exist, with gorgeous panoramas, beautiful locations, participants from countless nations and trails that may have never seen a bike before. They are a real challenge for riders and their equipment. Long stages and physical exertion must be overcome in the most difficult of conditions. Every race is described as the hardest, the most spectacular, the most strenuous, and sometimes even “the toughest race on earth.” Are you tough enough? Decide for yourself.

Tour of Africa
The longest mountain bike race in the world take place every year across Africa from January to May. Ten countries (Egypt, Sudan, Ethiopia, Kenya, Tanzania, Malawi, Zambia, Botswana, Namibia, South Africa), 86 stages, 6835 miles, 25 rest days. Start: Cairo, Egypt, near the Pyramids. Finish: Cape Town, South Africa. Experiences: Nile, Sudanese desert, highways, steppe, Kilimanjaro, Victoria Falls.

Yak Attack / Nepal, Himalayas
The highest mountain bike race in the world in Nepal. Five stages, 174 miles, 29,527 ft cumulative elevation gain, climbs to 17,769 ft. Water freezes in your cup and the air contains only half as much oxygen as at sea level. Start: Besisahar. Finish: Tatopani. Experiences: Annapurna massif, temples, heat, cold, dust, temperatures between -4°F and +86°F, harsh living conditions, 5 miles of downhill enduro track from 17,769 ft to 9,186 ft altitude.

Desert Dash / Namibia
Across the Namibian desert to the Atlantic coast in less than 24 hours. Six stages, 232 miles, 10,475 ft cumulative elevation gain. Start: Windhoek, in the underground car park of the Grove shopping center. Finish: Swakopmund. Experience: Namib desert with starry sky at night, Khoma highlands, wild animals, heat, dust.

Tour Divide / Canada, USA
Self-support and non-stop racing along the continental divide (Great Divide). 2,745 miles, 200,131 ft cumulative elevation gain, highest point 11,909 ft, around 15 days. Start: Banff, Canada. Finish: Antelope Wells, USA, on the Mexican border. Experience: Canadian wilderness, river crossings, stretches carrying the bike on steep slopes, Rocky Mountains, stretches pushing the bike through deep snow. Be sure to pack: bear spray.

Salzkammergut Trophy / Austria
Largest mountain bike marathon in Austria. One stage, 130 miles, 23,356 ft cumulative elevation gain, in less than 16 hours. Start/finish: Bad Goisern market square. Experience: The long loop goes through the UNESCO World Heritage region of Hallstatt-Dachstein- Salzkammergut and is one of the most impressive marathon courses in Europe with a gradient of 38% in places. “To hell and back” is the organizer’s advertising slogan.

Titan Desert Race / Morocco
Orientation and endurance race across the Moroccan desert. Six stages, 372 miles, 24,606 ft cumulative elevation gain. Worth seeing: spectacular mountains, arid desert. Start: Boumalne Dadès. Finish: Maadid. Experience: Mountain and sand stages, desert, Atlas mountains, extreme heat. Tip: don’t lose your bearings in the scorching desert heat

Cape Pioneer Trek / South Africa
Mountain bike race with authentic African experiences. 7 days, 308 miles, 35,252 ft cumulative elevation gain. Experience: The route goes through unfamiliar and impassable terrain, Swartberg, dry, desert landscapes of the wild Kammanassie, flowing single trails. Start: Saasveld. Finish: Oudtshoorn.

Bike Transalp / Italy
The classic among the mountain bike races. 313 miles, 59,068 ft cumulative elevation gain, 7 days. A different route is taken each year. Finish: Lake Garda. Experience: Participants from over 40 countries, Alpine panorama, a lonely mountain trail far above the tree line, picturesque towns at each stage, remote passes, old dirt roads..

La Ruta de los Conquistadores / Costa Rica
The first mountain bike race of its kind runs from the Pacific west coast to the Atlantic east coast. 3 days, 140 miles, 5 mountain ranges, 29,002 ft cumulative elevation gain. Start: Jacó Beach. Finish: Bonita Beach. Experience: Beaches, tropical rainforest, different climate zones, volcanoes at over 11,811 ft, plants and birds that can only be found in Costa Rica – the most biodiverse country in the world.

The Munga / South Africa
Nonstop through the South African summer. 631 miles in less than 120 hours. Start: Bloemfontein. Finish: Diemersfontein Wine Estate in Wellington. Experience: GPS route through the most beautiful and barren areas of South Africa. Five rest stops where participants can decide for themselves whether they want to eat, sleep or continue. They are left to their own devices on the route.

The somewhat different mountain bike race:
City Downhill – full throttle through the city

In Valparaíso, Chile, in the favelas of Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, or at the world’s longest urban race in Monserrate, Bogotá, Colombia, riders chase each other through narrow streets and up steep steps. Instead of rocks, roots, forest or sand, the riders travel downhill on unusual terrain such as roofs, gardens or simply through houses. The organizers of various city downhill competitions are looking for ever more spectacular courses around the world that attract spectators and immerse them in the action. At some events they’ll even witness bikes flying over their heads.